Recently, my close friend Wendy and I had a conversation. She brought something to my attention that really matters. She shared with me that during a social event that she was at, she noticed the number of middle aged (40’s, 50’s and up) who were in attendance were, predominately Black men, who were very out of shape and walked as though they were tired and/or stooped over. She told me that she didn’t see even one who she found even remotely physically attractive. I can definitely relate to that because, although we live in different cities, I see this on regular basis right here in Atlanta.
Wendy reminded me about the on-going and prevailing movement in this country to get black women to eat better, get healthy and exercise. I agreed with her. How many Weight Watcher commercials have we recently seen where Oprah Winfrey is boasting about her 40 pound weight loss. I can’t even count how many Facebook pages suggest I “like” them; they’re usually in the spirit of “Black women exercising” or “Black Women Getting Healthy” or something to do with promoting the health and wellness of black women. This is a wonderful thing, no doubt!
However, much to Wendy’s point, how often do we see websites, Facebook pages and links or even commercials where fat black men are the targeted audience? Where’s the campaign or movement for them? I really had to think about this when Wendy brought it to my attention. So, what does this mean? Are we as a black community less concerned about the health of our aging men than we are about our aging women? Why isn’t there as much emphasis on fat black men? Is this a double standard thing or what?
There have always been two sets of rules for men and women in our culture and the black community is no different. A man can put on weight, grow a gut the size of a beach ball, lose his hair or let his grey grow in AND never lose his desire for sex. And, of course, with the invention of the little blue pill, an aging penis is still able to get the job done. Truth is, I have been approached by beach ball bellies and the thing that I noticed, besides their girth, is their confidence! Many of these men, who are clearly obese and out of shape, still feel as though they have a chance. Are we culturally more accepting of overweight men than we are of overweight women? I think we are and that’s unfortunate.
During our conversation, Wendy reminded me about a few dismal statistics. She said,
“Overall, women outlive men, we often end up taking care of our partners/lovers, many in long term relationships only begin to live our lives after partners have passed on and our men suffer/die from HBP, and among other issues, heart and prostate disease, many while being “comfortably overweight and out of shape.”
Once again, I agree. We’re not saying that overweight/out of shape black women don’t suffer from many health issues also. According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death in black (and white) women in the U.S. Heart disease used to be considered a man’s disease, but not anymore! Maybe with this revelation of heart disease now being a woman’s issue, too, hence this tenacious emphasis on women’s health and wellness. I say hooray! Let’s keep our bodies as healthy as possible – let’s learn that a cup of anything is usually enough. Let’s continue to encourage our fellow sisters to exercise daily – either alone or with others – take a walk or a Zumba class…it doesn’t matter, just move. But, what about our men? Collectively, what are we doing to share the focus and get overweight aging black men up and moving? Being overweight sucks your energy level and that has a negative impact on your social and romantic life. This applies to men and women. But for some reason, I think we middle aged women are “getting it” faster than our partners because we’re the ones coordinating walks, runs, fitness classes, working out at home and in the gym. Disclaimer: I’m not saying that this applies to ALL middle aged black men – it doesn’t. But truthfully, for far too many, it does apply.
Look, let’s keep it real here. Men love attractive, shapely, fit/semi fit/at-least-attempting to be fit women…even if they’re not! There’s nothing better than a sexy, vibrant, energetic mature woman who takes charge of her health and wellness. We, women, want the same things in our men! We also want vibrant and energetic fit/semi-fit/at-least-attempting to be fit men in our lives.
Being middle aged doesn’t have to be synonymous with being fat, out of shape, overweight, unproductive, boring, tired, empathetic or unengaged in life. I have written several pieces on living our best lives at this age. The possibilities are endless and exciting. However, in addition to the wonderful things to look forward to, we have to be vigilant about our aging bodies and taking care of them. This is the time in our lives – men and women- when we start becoming the “other people” who we read about who died suddenly or unexpectedly. We are those “other” people. Although there are some things that are out of our control, we must try to do better with the things that are.
Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts on this topic. I’d love to hear from you!
To Wendy (My friend and still the hardest working sista I know): Thanks for the conversation and for giving me a great topic to write about. It needs to be said.
Photo credit: Dreamstime Stock Photos
P.S…I even had trouble finding a suitable image of a black overweight male midsection, so hence the Dreamstime watermarks. Needless to say, however, there are a plethora of overweight black women images… *side eye* and *eyeroll*